. Scientific Frontline: Red Algae Could Be Used to Create a Drug for Coronavirus

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Red Algae Could Be Used to Create a Drug for Coronavirus

Chemical research on Laurencia red algae began in 1965.
Photo Credit: 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič

Laurencia red algae can be used as a basis for new drugs against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, biochemists have found. A team of scientists from the Ural Federal University, the Institute of Organic Synthesis of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, together with colleagues from Australia and Germany, carried out molecular docking of 300 bioactive components (ligands) of red algae and found seven compounds with the required activity. The scientists published a description of the experiments and results in the journal Microbiology Research

"Laurencia belongs to the family Rhodomelaceae, which is considered one of the largest families of marine red algae, with an estimated 125 genera and 700 species worldwide. Laurencia has recently been the subject of active research. Since 2015, a total of 1,047 secondary metabolites with various useful properties have been isolated from Laurencia species alone," explains Grigory Zyryanov, Chief Researcher of the UrFU Laboratory of Advanced Materials, Green Methods and Biotechnology.

Traditionally, Laurencia has been used for food (for example, by the people of Hawaii), as a traditional medicine, and as a fertilizer. Recent studies have shown that Laurencia is a rich source of bioactive compounds with antiviral activity.

"RNA polymerase (RdRp), also known as a non-structural protein, is a potential target that can be blocked by a therapeutic drug, thereby stopping the spread of the virus in the body. In SARS-CoV-2, the RdRp complex consists of three proteins. To determine their activity against SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins, we screened 300 red algae ligands. In the end, we found seven candidates that block different parts of the proteins responsible for virus replication. We also found that bromic acid C is active against two targets simultaneously. Of course, it is too early to talk about algae-based drugs for coronavirus treatment, but in general, we believe that this is a good basis for further experimental research in this area," says Grigory Zyryanov.

It should be noted that the study was conducted using computer modeling based on available data from international medical databases - PubChem, ChemSpider, and CMNPD. In silico screening allows faster selection of promising compounds and in some cases reduces the first stage of animal testing. The authors tested the selected compounds for human toxicity, among other things. As a result, seven compounds were shortlisted for further testing.

Reference Material: Laurencia is a genus of red algae found in temperate and tropical coastal areas. It is a small to medium-sized algae, with the puffs of the algae reaching up to 40 centimeters in length. Laurencia are grown in tanks under laboratory conditions for research purposes. Initial research interest in red algae arose because of its potential to become a new source of antibiotics.

SARS-CoV-2 is a member of the coronavirus family that causes Covid-19 infection (disease). According to the World Health Organization, 13.5 billion vaccines have been distributed to date. Despite the development of vaccines, the number of cases continues to rise. Thus, according to the WHO, as of December 2019, there have been 771 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 disease in the world. Nearly 7 million people have died.

Although the WHO has lifted the pandemic status of Covid-19, the coronavirus is not yet a defeated disease. Vaccines provide protection against severe forms of the disease, but drugs are still needed to treat it. It is likely that SARS-CoV-2 will become a permanent companion of humans, which is why the development of effective antiviral drugs is still extremely urgent.

Funding: The research was funded by a mega grant from the Russian Ministry of Education and Science (Project No. 075-15-2022-1118).

Published in journalMicrobiology Research

Source/CreditUral Federal University

Reference Number: mcb101023_01

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